Ignore those who claim that Brief Encounter is the epitome of sexless, class-bound and emotionally timid British cinema. Directed by David Lean, and scripted by Noel Coward, this account of an unconsummated love affair in a provincial market town remains a poignant illustration of how social conventions can crush an individual’s dreams of happiness. Celia Johnson stars as middle-class wife and mother Laura, recollecting her failed fling with Trevor Howard’s married doctor Alec: the bulk of the film is her subjective memory of events, which allows us access to her thoughts, feelings and fantasises. Propelled by Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto on the soundtrack, and impressively shot in monochrome by Robert Krasker, Brief Encounter ultimately stands on the moving restraint of its two leads, torn between duty and desire.
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